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Small, Simple, Efficient RAM ProMaster DIY Camper Van Conversion

We have enjoyed RVing over the years, but lost our last RV in a highway crunch.
One thing we did not enjoy about RVing was the 10 mpg gas bills and the 2 lbs per mile of CO2 emissions. So, this project is about getting back into RVing with a smaller footprint.
The RAM ProMaster 1500, hi roof, 136 WB at start of conversion

Objectives for the new van conversion:

  •  Keep it simple 
  •  An open feel inside
  •  20+ mpg
  •  Comfortable beds for 2
  •  No need for hookups 
  •  Drives like a car
  •  Able to handle some back roads 

The RAM ProMaster we bought for the conversion is a high roof, 1500, 136 WB. This gives us an area to work with of about 10.1 ft long by 6.5 ft wide (behind the driver/passenger seats). The inside height is about 76 inches.  A really Tiny House 🙂

It was the smallest and lightest vehicle we could find that we think will also provide enough space  and stand up height.  

Just as an aside, it would be very interesting to see what could be done with an even smaller vehicle — maybe something like the Ford Transit Connect — a 30 mpg RV!

So, this is going to be a several month project, and I’m just going to be adding to it as things go along. 

I’d very much like to hear ideas, comments, and suggestions that we might be able to incorporate as things progress.

I’ve put up a new section on BuildItSolar with pages for each major part of the conversion: layout, insulation, paneling, flooring, electrical system, …  The main page for the conversion is here…

Progress so far…

Layout:

We have pretty much decided on this layout:

We did a very crude mockup of this layout in the van:

The two beds are in the back and make into a seating area during the day, galley is on right behind drivers seat.  There will be some more storage cabinets around the edge up high.  New windows will be added in 3 or 4 locations (about where the blue tape is).

We like this nice open feel of this and the high quality beds.

More on other layouts we considered…

Insulation:

Did the insulation of the walls and ceiling using spray foam polyurethane insulation.  I used one of the two component kits that provide the two pressurized bottles and spray nozzle and hoses.  

Had never used one of these kits before, but it worked out pretty well.

All the details on insulating here…

Electrical:

I’ve been working on the electrical system design.

Its a bit more complicated than I would like in that we want to be able to spend a couple days (or more) away from hookups.  It has a fairly large battery and the battery can be charged via solar (on the roof), the van alternator, or from shore power.

I’ve worked out a tentative list of components.

Would appreciate any comments on the design or the components.


Floor:

Today’s project is the floor.





I’ve put up a new section on BuildItSolar with pages for each major part of the conversion: layout, insulation, paneling, flooring, electrical system, …  The main page for the conversion is here…


Gary July 22, 2014




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Garden ideas – staging

Staging for growing peas and beans
Staging for growing peas and beans

We have some old staging that my Dad gave us many years ago. It’s not safe for working on anymore, so we were trying to decide what to do with it. Then we thought, why not make use of in the Garden! By using two ends and one cross bar, we created a great frame for our peas and beans to climb up on. The space inside allows for other ground or low growing crops as well. Great adaptive re-use of something that has been sitting around in the weather for ages.

We still had another staging left over, so our Daughter and Son-in-law created a a great little greenhouse for us at the back of the shop. The tomatoes love it in there! You can see the drip hose we are using. The emitters are supposed to be less likely to clog up with dirt. Seems to be working great so far 🙂

We keep talking about building a more permanent greenhouse, but so far this has worked out for us, so no hurry. Saves a lot of money as well!

Tomatoes love it in the greenhouse!
Simple greenhouse from old staging
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Garlic Harvest

About 1/2 of 2014 Garlic crop
Half of 2014 Garlic crop

Our Garden seems to be doing quite well considering how hot is has been for the last while. We put in a new drip irrigation system this year, which is simply a hose connected to a couple of multi-shutoffs. We bought some ergonomic shut-offs this year to help Diannes hands. Also bought a better quality drip hose (same as city uses in some of their parks). This allows us to create zones in the garden and shut areas off and on as needed. As we just harvested the garlic, we can now shut that area off, so we don’t waste water.
 
The garlic is a little early this year. This photo is about half the crop which we harvested yesterday. Tomorrow, we will select out the best bulbs to be used for re-planting this fall and hang up all of the garlic for curing. Can’t wait to start eating! (We did try a little out already, but not as tasty before curing). With the Garlic out of the ground, we can train the squash to take over the area, as they are rapidly spreading now. They are full of bees and other pollinators, so should have a good crop of them as well!

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Solar Powered DIY RV Evaporative Cooler

Tom has come up with a very nice evaporative cooler for his RV. The cooler is effective, uses very little electrical power, and is inexpensive and relatively easy to build.

The finished cooler in position on the solar powered RV



The system uses fans to blow outside air through a porous wet cooling pad. Evaporation of water in the cooling pad cools the air, dropping the temperature by as much as 25 F.
The compact unit contains a water reservoir, water pump, aspen cooling pad, and circulation fans as shown in the diagram.
It runs on 12 volt DC power and is powered by the RV’s solar panel and battery — pretty cool 🙂
Diagram showing how the cooler operates.
The finished unit ready to install.
Tom uses this to cool his RV — it uses only a fraction of the power that conventional coolers use and allows him to rely solely on solar power when camping off the grid.
The same sort of design could be used for all sorts of cooling applications — cooling a living space or shop or greenhouse with no grid power, cooling when the power grid goes down, … For this size cooler, the fans and pump only use about 18 watts at 12 volts — so a modest size PV panel could direct drive the cooler. The design could be scaled up for larger spaces.
Gary
July 3, 2014